Why the Church Apr 18 2012
A Newsweek cover this month ran with an illustration of the contemporary Christian. A man stands centered in what looks to be Times Square, that place where the world converges in bright lights and traffic. He is dressed in a flannel shirt, with his hands in the pockets of his winter coat. He gazes slightly above us, with a crown of thorns on his head. The cover story reads, “Forget the church, Follow Jesus.” This is the disciple of our day?
If you read the statistical data of the last decade you would begin to believe it. The church, especially the mainline denominations, has been in decline for a generation. The losses, both financial and in people attending, has not abated in recent years. So is Andrew Sullivan correct, “forget the church, and follow Jesus”? Can you follow Jesus without his bride?
The truth is, those on the outside of the church looking in have reason to be turned off. The American Church is seasonally racked by scandal. As we decline, numbers have become more important than discipleship. Issues never mentioned in the gospels, such as sexual orientation, consume and divide us.
What Jesus talked about was power and money, divesting ourselves of the one and detaching ourselves from the other. What ruled his life was not church law, but extravagant love.
In the last General Conference, the United Methodist Church gave the appointed elder of a local congregation, which would be my position at Dilworth Church, the authority to turn down a request for membership. In others words, I have the authority to mark a person as unsuitable to follow Jesus among us. I voted against this amendment. We all come to the church in need of Jesus. Jesus came for the sick. I was ordained so that God would use me that we would be made well.
From what I’ve read IN the gospels, and in my adult life that has been near daily, if a person was despised by society for good reason or no good reason at all, Jesus sat at the table and ate with them.
My thinking on these matters goes like this: If you can stand before the congregation and say yes to our baptismal vows, join my hand and come with me. No, better yet, join our hands and we will follow Jesus together. These questions are a tall order.
“Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil power of this world and repent of your sin?
“Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms the present themselves?”
“Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savoir, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations and races?”
It takes a life time to live an ‘I do’ to these three questions.
I’ve learned with age that faithfulness eludes me when I go it alone. This means, I can’t ‘forget the church and follow Jesus.’ We need the church to instruct us, pray for us, hold us accountable and still love us when we fail. Knowing this, God forbid we close the door on anyone.
Why the Church? The Sermon Series begins April 22.
Sunday Worship Services: 8:45 AM in Terry Chapel or 11:00 AM in the Sanctuary
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